What are Antidepressants?

Pronounced as /ˌæntidɪˈpres(ə)nt/

Antidepressants are prescription drugs that aim to relieve depression. Likewise, it has also been used for other health issues such as the inability to sleep, pain, and agitation states. Despite the fact that it’s not FDA-approved for ADHD medication, still, it has been widely used by adults with ADHD.

What are the types of Antidepressants?

Generally, there are four types namely:

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)

  • The most common prescription drug for depression.
  • It prevents the brain from absorbing serotonin that leads to faster-messaging pathways that stabilize one’s mood.
  • Examples: Prozac, Celexa, Paxil

Serotonin-Norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)

  • It is used as a medication of depression, uncontrollable mood swings, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), agitation disorders, effects of the menopausal period, extreme body pains, and severe headaches
  • Examples: Effexor, Cymbalta

Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs)

  • “Tricyclic” means its chemical structure has three rings
  • It’s used for medication of depression, agitation disorder, uneasiness, severe distress.
  • Examples: Elavil, Tofranil, Pamelor

Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)

  • It’s typically prescribed before letting any patient have the SSRIs AND SNRIs
  • Examples: Nardil, Parnate

What do Antidepressants look like?

These kinds of drugs are sold in the market in the form of a tablet (oval-shaped or round) and capsule-pills.They also come in various colors such as blue, green, and red when sold in the market.

What are the other names of Antidepressants?

These drugs can either be called in terms of their classification names or by their brand names. Most people know these drugs by the popular brand names prescribed by medical personnel in the industry.


Names for Antidepressants:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
  • Serotonin-Norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
  • Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs)
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)

Brand names

for Antidepressants:

  • Prozac
  • Celexa
  • Paxil
  • Effexor
  • Cymbalta
  • Elavil
  • Tofranil
  • Pamelor
  • Nardil
  • Parnate
  • Remeron
  • Wellbutrin

What are the street names?

These drugs are known in the streets by different names according to color, user effect, brand name based, culture or colloquial uses, geographical area, fictional characters, and slang or deceptive names.

Color based street names:

  • Blue Bullets
  • Blue birds
  • Blue angels
  • Blue tips
  • Blue heavens
  • Blue devil
  • Green frog
  • Green dragons
  • Marshmallow reds
  • Pink ladies
  • Red bullets
  • Red and Blue
  • Rainbows
  • Reds
  • Strawberries

Street names based on effects:

  • Block busters
  • Busters
  • Downer
  • Double trouble
  • Goofers
  • Drowsy high
  • Idiot pills
  • Lay back
  • Stumbler
  • Stoppers

Street names based on drug names:

  • Barbies
  • Barb
  • Bambs
  • Luds
  • Ludes
  • Nimbies
  • Nemmies
  • Nebbies
  • Quad
  • Phenos
  • Phennies
  • Quas
  • Softballs
  • Seggy
  • Seccy
  • Sopers
  • Tuie
  • Tranq
  • Tooties
  • Tooles

Street names based from culture and colloquial use:

  • Christmas Rolls
  • Chorals
  • Dolls
  • Disco Biscuits
  • Gangster Pills
  • Gorilla Pills

Street names based geographical location:

  • Mexican Reds

Street names based on people and fictional characters:

  • Mickey Finn
  • King Kong Pills
  • Mother’s Little Helper
  • Mighty Joe Young
  • Mickeys

Deceptive Street names:

  • Backwards
  • Coral
  • Joy Juice
  • Jellies
  • Peth

What are Antidepressants used for?

These are medications used to cure depression and stabilize the mood state of a patient. Out of the four classifications of these drugs, the two most commonly prescribed are Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and Serotonin-Norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs).

How do Antidepressants work?

These drugs stabilize the mood of a person by altering the amounts of some neurotransmitters in the central nervous system. The three important neurotransmitters that affect the mood and messaging process of the brain are serotonin, noradrenaline and dopamine.

Typically, these medications work by balancing the amount of serotonin in our brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter and its main impact is to modulate activity in the central nervous system.

How strong are Antidepressants?

When you’re just starting out medication with these drugs, the effect manifests within 2 to 4 weeks. Whereas, the optimal impact of the medication for constant required dosage will be felt for an extended period of about 6 to 8 weeks.

How long do Antidepressants stay in your system?

The length of time these drugs stay inside your body is also affected by your current physiological status. If you have a stronger immune system and practice a healthy lifestyle, then it is likely that traces of the drugs can be completely removed from your system in just a short span of time. Likewise, the longer you’ve been taking this medication, the more it accumulates in your system so it will take longer to flush out.

Drugs of this type having shorter half-lives tend to cause more problematic symptoms. Below is a chart showing the half-lives for some known antidepressants.

DrugHalf-life99% excreted from the body
Serotonin reuptake inhibitors
Paroxetine (Paxil)24 hours4.4 days
Sertraline (Zoloft)26 hours5.4 days
Escitalopram (Lexapro)27 to 32 hours6.1 days
Citalopram (Celexa)36 hours7.3 days
Fluoxetine (Prozac)4 to 6 days25 days
Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors
Venlafaxine (Effexor)5 hours1 day
Duloxetine (Cymbalta)12 hours2.5 days
Desvenlafaxine (Pristiq)12 hours2.5 days
Dopamine and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor
Bupropion (Wellbutrin)21 hours4.4 days
Note: *Withdrawal symptoms starts after 90% of the drug is excreted from the body

How does one get addicted to Antidepressants?

Chemically, these drugs do not contain any addictive components which could definitely induce dependence. The concept of addiction or dependence of this substance only points to the withdrawal effects felt by the patient once medication stops.

In comparison to other mood-altering drugs, the withdrawal effect of this substance is not painful and harmful unlike those with addictive and neurotoxic properties. The main solution when a person is advised to stop medicating this drug will be a gradual lowering of dosage rather than abrupt cessation.

How does Antidepressant use affect the brain and the body?

This kind of medication targets the brain in order to stabilize the mood and hormones of a person by altering the amounts of some neurotransmitters in the central nervous system. Generally, these drugs work by balancing the amount of serotonin in our brain.

What are the short and long-term effects of Antidepressant?

Like any other drugs, below are some of the common short-term and long-term effects for taking in antidepressants.

Short-term effects:

  • Feeling numb
  • Vomiting
  • Increase in body weight
  • Diarrhea
  • Irregular sleep patterns

Long-term effects:

  • Risk for impotency and other sexual problems
  • Tendency for suicide attempts
  • Apathy
  • Reduced optimistic feeling

Why are Antidepressants dangerous?

Even though these drugs contain no addictive chemical contents, still if you take unnecessary large doses without the prescription of medical personnel, it could lead to serious side-effects. Several medical studies have reported serious risks for a long-term large dosage of this substance.

  • Suicidal Behavior: Long-term medication and increased dosage for children and adolescents pose a high risk for the development of suicidal behavior.
  • Birth Defects: Some of these drugs are reported to inflict birth deformities for pregnant women.
  • High Blood Pressure: Individuals taking monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) must not eat foods with high contents of tyramine. This substance is commonly found in cheese, wines, and pickles. MAOIs when in contact with tyramine causes an abrupt increase in blood pressure.

What causes Antidepressant overdose?

Drug overdose happens if the person takes in more than what’s prescribed by the medical personnel. Moreover, drug tolerance will increase chances of getting overdosed, not to mention dosage increases over time. Lastly, overdose could also happen when a person uses antidepressants just to alleviate the negative effects of some other drugs being abused.

What are the signs of an overdose?

Signs of overdose are mild and are noticeable after one to two hours, however, it might get worse over time. Below are some of the signs of overdose:

  • Nausea
  • Being lethargic
  • Mouth becomes too dry
  • Anxiety
  • Diarrhea
  • Fast and irregular heartbeat (tachycardia)

How do you treat Antidepressant overdose?

In cases of overdose, you can do the following early treatments:

  • Exert force on the person’s stomach
  • Let the patient ingest activated charcoal
  • Inject sodium bicarbonate
  • Keep the patient hydrated

What are the withdrawal symptoms from Antidepressants?

Withdrawal symptoms occur when a person suddenly stops taking in these drugs after prolonged high-dosage medication. Below are the common signs for antidepressant withdrawal:

  • Very sensitive to high-pitch sounds
  • Feeling of numbness
  • Sudden mood swings
  • Agitation states
  • Uncontrolled body movements
  • Feeling lightheaded
  • Irregular sleep patterns
  • Excessive sweating
  • Stomach cramps
  • Loss of appetite

How can you treat Antidepressant addiction?

Dependence on this medicinal substance is treatable. Treatment must be done step-by-step for complete recovery. You can consider the following steps for your treatment process:

  • Consult your medical personnel or clinician for a comprehensive guideline in order to recover from drug dependence.
  • Reward System: A contingency management plan where sets of rewards will be given to the patients who avoid using this drug.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): A treatment process seeking to determine the variables causing drug abuse, risk reduction methods, and enhancing coping mechanism.
  • Recovery Group: A community-based plan which allows the patient to meet other victims and have a sharing about their experiences and success.